Working with Americans
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Working with Americans

How to Build Profitable Business Relationships

Allyson Stewart-Allen, Lanie Denslow

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eBook - ePub

Working with Americans

How to Build Profitable Business Relationships

Allyson Stewart-Allen, Lanie Denslow

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About This Book

Finalist in the Business Management and Leadership Category of the International Book Awards 2021

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In this new, extensively updated second edition, authors Allyson Stewart-Allen and Lanie Denslow accurately capture the current US business environment and its changes since their best-selling 1st edition published in 2002. You'll find even more insights into the American business mindset, diversity and regions building on the acclaimed first edition so you can confidently negotiate, communicate and influence in the world's largest, most profitable and complex marketplace.

Alongside their examination of the impact of 5 generations in today's US workforce, the authors explore the complex issues faced by American bosses including:



  • levels of transparency expected of organizations in how they do business, ranging from ethics of their supply chain, to the treatment of employees via social media, equal pay expectations or the personal views of their executives on environmental, social, governance or political events


  • ever declining workforce loyalty resulting from perceived job insecurity


  • younger employees' quest for visibility, interesting projects and rapid promotion


  • consumer and customer expectations as standard for extensive personalization and customization of products and services

Anybody who has ever done business with Americans can testify that there are more differences than similarities between the US business culture and those in the rest of the world. Whether it's values, etiquette, communication, influencing or negotiating, there's a clear American style. How you go about building successful and profitable business relationships in the US should be guided by the many important lessons and insights offered in this essential reference guide. Whether new to working with Americans or an experienced internationalist, this book will serve as your ready reference for connecting with US colleagues, clients, customers or consultants.

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2019
ISBN
9780429515675

PART 1
Background

CHAPTER ONE
The tea party and the great frontier

Introduction

Who are they, the Americans? Where are they from? According to the US Census Bureau as of March 10, 2019, there are 328,549,164 people in the US.1 Most of them can trace their family origins to another country. With the exception of Native Americans, Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Alaskan Natives, we are a nation of immigrants.
The attitudes and spirit, the hope and energy that propelled the first people to come, and that continue to attract people even now, are the foundations of the America we see today. A few words and phrases capture the essence of the country’s spirit: Independence, Curiosity, Equality, Change is Good, New is Better, Hard work, Abundance, Opportunity. In our lives, personal and professional, these words shape actions.

Speed read

  • The attitudes, not just the results of the actions of the country’s founders, are in evidence today.
  • America, the Land of Opportunity, is also the Land of Variety. The origins of the population can be traced to all parts of the globe.
  • Although the country can be considered young, less than 250 years old, it does have a history – one that influences the actions of its people today.
  • There’s no harm in trying. Americans embrace the idea that change can be a good thing and, even if things don’t work out as you might wish, you can always try again.

Picture this

Overheard in the corporate halls of British corporation: “It’s big, but so what, everyone speaks English, there’s that ‘special relationship’ with the UK, so it’s part hot and part cold, but how complicated can the market be?” The answer is – very complicated. With a rebellious history, a population representing the nations of the world, and an emphasis on independence, the Americans and their market can be segmented by age, sex, income, education, reading habits, even to blocks within zip codes! Complicated, multi-faceted, and yet, tied together by history and attitudes.

The bigger picture

It’s a new world

The US has been referred to as the “New World” in contrast to Europe, the home of the original settlers, the “Old World”. The idea of a place being the “New World” can be interpreted as it being a destinaton for a fresh start, an untouched place, one ready to accept everyone, a world that can be shaped in new ways, an implied promise. A place where you can realize your vision.
Although there are many today who would suggest that this time has passed, that opportunities are limited, the actions of millions of others argue against this perspective. The continuing flow of immigrants suggests that, for many, America is still seen as the Land of Opportunity.

Independent and still young

The creation of the British Parliament in 1215 is often marked as the beginning of democratic traditions. In 1776, 461 years later, the Declaration of Independence was signed, creating the US, a democracy that is a republic, giving a vote to its citizens with a constitution protecting the rights of all. The country, officially the United States of America, is still young. Its present configuration – a total of 50 states and the District of Columbia – was completed with the addition of Hawaii in 1959, less than 70 years ago.
Contrast this with the longevity of England and France –the two countries linked to the founding of the US, who trace their histories back to the eleventh and ninth centuries, respectively, more than 1,000 years ago.
A Los Angeles-based advertising executive, originally from the United Kingdom (UK), likens the US to a teenager. He says the country has all the qualities of a young person: boundless optimism, vast energy, confidence, certainty that their opinions are correct and a sense of invincibility. The US, which based on his description could be called a precocious youngster, thinks of itself as mature and wise, a leader of the free world.

Who were they? The people who crossed the oceans

We think first of the settlers, referred to as Pilgrims, as being from the UK. America (or the original New England settlements) was, after all, a British colony. However, the founders represented a broader spectrum of Europeans: French, Irish, German and Spanish. Slavery brought people from Africa, and gold mines and the construction of the railroads drew workers from Asia. Although the majority of the early immigrants were Western European that pattern of immigration has changed over the years. As of 2015, 14% of the US population are foreign -born, compared to just 5% in 1965. Nearly 39 million immigrants have come to the US since 1965, with most coming from Asia and Latin America.2 If you travel throughout the US, it’s possible to find people from almost any of the countries of the world.
As people still do today, when they come to a new country, the early arrivals tended to settle in specific areas, often near others from their country and culture. This created cities with concentrations of people from specific places, influencing the culture in each city. For example, Chicago drew people from Poland; Boston, the Irish; New York is known for Italians and Puerto Ricans, and San Francisco for its Chinese community.
In some US cities, architecture tells the story of their inhabitants’ origins. The churches and buildings of Europe are reflected in the architecture of East Coast cities such as New York and Boston. Spain and Mexico are the inspiration for the West’s distinctive missions and haciendas, and Louisiana shows the influence of France in the colors of its buildings and the famous ironwork balconies found in New Orleans. When an American visits London for the first time, the city looks familiar: “It’s Boston!” or “It’s New York!” they say, seldom stopping to acknowledge which city was first.

Looking for a better life

To understand what brought people to the US, it is useful to look beyond their place of origin and consider their motivations and attitudes. One point of view is that the people who founded the US were explorers, adventurers, independent thinkers and risk-takers. According to Cornelius Grove’s article in Grosvewell’s Knowledge Center, “some came to attain religious freedom. Some came for economic freedom or to escape an endless cycle of poverty. Some came in the hope of developing ideal political or social arrangements. Most people who arrived on the shores of North America were highly motivated to accomplish something”.3
On the other hand, it is worth considering that some may have been opportunists, thieves and misfits with nothing to lose, nothing to risk, by making the journey.
However, you view them, it is reasonable to hypothesize that there was a common tie. They were all willing to take a risk, to act upon their belief that changing their circumstances and their environment would bring about a better life for themselves and their families. Today, we see that same spirit, as newcomers take great risks to make their way to the US.
It’s OK, Ms. C. – I prefer to be the master of my own destiny.

Connected to the world

The US, the former colony, has traditionally had a “special relationship” with the UK. It is often said we are two countries separated by a common language. Yet today, in addition to its relationship with the UK, the US has strong ties to multiple countries around the globe. Simply looking at its major trading partners tells the story of its worldwide reach. As of late 2018, its major trading partners included nearby neighbors and those from across the globe. The top ten include China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, South Korea, the UK and France.

The story of history: the rebels and their tea party

Ask people what they remember about American history and many will tell you it started with the Tea Party. They may not remember exactly where this happened, or the exact sequence of events, but they generally recall the idea of citizens throwing tea into the harbor as an act of rebellion against what they saw as financial injustice.
Today, one may argue that this was an act of urban protest no different than those targeted against globalization. But for American children learning the history of their country, this story is about freedom fighters, brave men and women standing up for their rights.
Lost in history is the fact that this specific act was a protest against “taxation without representation”, only one element of a larger revolution seeking freedom and rights for each individual. Considered broadly, the American Revolution was a rebellion against traditional thinking and behavior, against the formality and rigidity of existing society and institutions.
The new nation was created to be a land of freedom and opportunity for all, to give concrete form to the ideal that “all men are created equal”. Not only were people to be equal, they were to be free (with freedom defined broadly): to speak, to travel, to assemble, to bear arms, to be considered innocent until proven guilty. These philosophical concepts were codified in the Bill of Rights, further defined the Constitution and have been the subject of debate, interpretation and legislation for almost 25 years. History has been portrayed in many ways in many movies. For a clear statement of the idea of freedom of speech and responsibility, listen to Michael Douglas’s speech toward the end of The American President. It is a light-hearted movie that includes a powerful explanation of the ideal view American democracy.

History beyond the traditional story

Americans tend to see their history as triumphant. We tamed a wilderness and created a dynamic, free society with endless opportunities. We are a “melting pot” with arms open to receive the newcomer.
Unfortunately, such a view tends to overlook some of the less attractive realities of our history. To begin, the land was not empty when the European settlers arrived. The continental US was populated by Native American tribes (Alaska and Hawaii also had indigenous populations). In some places, the meetings between the original inhabitations people and new arrivals, Pilgrims as they are known, were peaceful, but in others they were not. The battles over the ownership of the land, along with diseases brought by the settlers, decimated much of t...

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